JANUARY 10 marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the convict ship Hougoumont in Fremantle, among its passengers 62 Irish political prisoners.

The escape of six of the Fenians aboard an American whaler was immortalised in the Aussie folk song Catalpa, but now local gallery owner Joanna Robertson has organised a nine-day festival to commemorate them all.

The inaugural Fenians Fremantle and Freedom Festival from January 5 – 14 will also be a celebration of Irish culture, says Ms Robertson, a former Dubliner.

• Irish president Michael Higgins helped launch Joanna Robertson’s Fenians festival during his recent trip to Australia. Photo by Wade

Noted Irish singer songwriter Declan O’Rourke will launch his new album Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine, while compatriots Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill will also be playing.

There’s a family day at the WA Maritime Museum, Irish ceili dancing, literature workshops, a John Boyle O’Reilly escape tour, films, music and a feast outside the Hougoumont Hotel in Bannister Street to round off the festival.

One of the most poignant events for Ms Robertson will be the Fenian commemoration day outside her Kidogo Arthouse on Bathers Beach, which includes a descendants’ procession to Fremantle Prison, and she’s keen to find as many of their rellies as she can.

See http://www.feniansfestival.com.au or search for it on Eventbrite.

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